October 2012 Site of the Month

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October 2012 Site of the Month

Online Tutorials


Authors: Ann Agee, Jessie Cai (Database/Web Programmer), Lyna Nguyen (Database/Analyst Programmer),
King Library librarians, and interns from San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science

Interviewee: Ann Agee

Institution: San Jose State University

Interviewer: Chris Granatino

Tutorial Description: San Jose State University (SJSU) has an enrollment of more than 28,000 students who are participating in more than 130 different bachelor's and master's degree programs. To serve this wide and varied population, the library has created a collection of more than 30 tutorials that cover database use and the library's services as well as tips and techniques to help students in specific research areas. This tutorial collection gets more than 8,300 visits per semester and provides students with support for their research as well as guidance in using the library.

Q: For starters, can you tell us a little bit about the process of getting this website started. What was the impetus behind putting the site together? How long did it take to bring all of these assets together?

A: San Jose State University’s King Library created its first online tutorials in the late 1990s. These tutorials—InfoPower and Plagiarism—take students an hour or so to complete and are assigned by faculty as part of their course curriculum. In 2009, we felt that shorter videos would be a quick, accessible way to help answer students’ most common questions. Finding Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed Articles was our first effort. This video answers that often-repeated reference desk question and it remains our most viewed short video. From there we branched out to quick guides to library services, such as Using Course Reserves, and to specific assignments, such as Annotated Bibliographies. We kept adding to the collection over the next three years, creating new tutorials as we received requests or suggestions from librarians. Currently, the collection stands at more than 40 videos on a wide variety of library- and research-related topics.

Q: Who is the intended audience for these videos and tutorials?

A: Our main audience is our undergraduate students. The tutorials were created to solve students’ common library-related problems in a quick, visual way. The videos, however, turned out to help our librarians, too. Rather than write a lengthy email to answer a student’s question, a librarian can just forward a link to one of our tutorials. Some also use the tutorials in their library instruction. In addition, for anyone doing a quick search of YouTube, we post the tutorials to our library channel, SJSU King Library Videos.

Q: Who else has been involved in the production of these tutorials? I noticed that some of the tutorials can be used for class credit and others are specific to courses like English 1B. How did you establish learning outcomes for these tutorials? Were faculty consulted as part of the process?

A: Over the years a lot of different librarians, library school interns, and IT staff were involved in creating our collection. I was involved in writing and creating the majority of the shorter videos, but always with the help and feedback of other librarians and faculty.

The tutorial creation process depends on the topic. Some of the basic, how-to videos simply walk students through the process of creating an account, and those were made with minimal outside input. Others, like the series of tutorials for English 1B and the collection for Health Science 1, follow the learning objectives set out for those classes and were reviewed by faculty throughout the production process.

Q: What software did you use to create the videos? Was there any specialized training involved for staff (or students) working on these videos or the tutorials?

A: The short, 3- to 5-minute videos were produced using Adobe Captivate screen-capture software. The lengthier tutorials were created by our Web Team using PHP. Some of our other tutorials were created by interns from SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science. For those students, we provided short training on the basics of using Adobe Captivate and then let them jump in and work on an actual project.

Q: On average, how long does it take from concept to completion for a video or a tutorial?

A: For a conceptual video, such as The Art of Topic Development, it takes about 35 hours from concept to scripting through editing to production. Simpler, shorter, how-to videos take much less time. Because they are much longer, more complex, and require programming, the tutorials took weeks to complete.

Q: I love how the videos include closed captioning. What other considerations for accessibility went into the process of organizing and creating this content?

A: The California State University system has a requirement that its resources be accessible to all of its students, faculty, and staff, regardless of any disabilities. So when we began creating the videos, we knew that accessibility was a necessity. Adobe Captivate provides a closed captioning feature, so that part was easy, and all of our videos include audio as well as visual guidance. In addition, we provide accessible PDF transcripts of all our scripts that can be used with a screen reader. Since the library serves the entire campus, we want to make sure that the tutorials really do serve the entire campus.

Q: Regarding assessment, did you do any sort of usability testing on the videos and tutorials before they were launched? Do you have plans (or have you already begun) to do any sort of assessment activity on the effectiveness of these tools?

A: The longer tutorials were tested for usability before going online, but the shorter tutorials were generally launched and then revised using feedback from students and librarians. (All of the short videos include a link to a feedback form.) Assessment was done for the larger tutorials the first few years they were used, but we haven’t planned on doing assessment for the short videos.

Q: Aside from the resources specifically created for a class, do you do any sort of promotion to help guide students to these resources?

A: We promote the videos from our LibGuides and specific videos are listed in handouts used in our library instruction sessions. We also have links at our points of service. For example, on our Articles and Databases page, we have a video link to Finding Articles in Academic Search Premier next to the database name. This is also true of our library catalog and Course Reserves videos.

Q: With this collection having been built up over the years, and involving so many different people, have you run into any major challenges along the way?

A: Surprisingly, we really haven't. Since its inception, the collection has been curated by one librarian, so there has always been a single go-to person for any problems that arise. That way, issues can get resolved fairly quickly. The problems we did have involved the quantity of videos and how to make them findable. I think our Web Team did a great job with the design and layout of the Online Tutorials page, making it easy for the students to scan what is there then go in for more depth if they're interested.

Q: Do you have any advice to share with anyone who is interested in producing their own tutorials?

A: As the Nike slogan says, “Just do it”. There are a lot of terrific screencasting tools out there that make creating videos easier every day, and often the shorter the video, the better, so it doesn’t need to be viewed as a large or hugely time-consuming task. That being said, allot the majority of your time to thinking about your learning outcomes and writing the script, if you use one. The time spent on creating the concept versus creating the video should be about 80/20. Most of all, have fun. Making a video is a creative process and you can take it in a lot of entertaining, interesting directions.

October 2012 PRIMO Site of the Month